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Cheng William v Chai Mei Leng [1999] SGCA 26

Outcome: Appeal allowed


1  The Husband appealed against the High Court Judge’s decision to set aside the decree nisi which had been granted on the basis that parties had lived apart for a prior continuous period of four years. The High Court Judge had considered that the circumstances were extraordinary, and it was unjust, unreasonable, and wrong to dissolve the marriage notwithstanding parties had lived apart for a continuous period of 4 years.

Court’s decision

2  The Court of Appeal allowed the appeal and restored the decree nisi.

3  S 95(2) and s 95(4) of the Women’s Charter are applicable for the most extreme of cases where notwithstanding that the marriage has irretrievably broken down for one or more of the five facts stated in s 95(3) of the Women’s Charter, it would still be wrong to dissolve the marriage having regard to all the circumstances including the conduct of the parties and the impact of a dissolution of the marriage on the interests of the children or either party. This would not be a matter of the court’s discretion, but one of facts which will have to be proved so that the court can weight the pros and cons and come to a decision: at [7] and [10].

4  The fact that a divorce would lead to financial hardship is in itself insufficient to resist the divorce. Such financial matters can be more appropriately addressed at the ancillary matters hearing: at [43].

5  A unilateral desire for reconciliation by one spouse was meaningless without a reciprocal desire by the other spouse, and is insufficient to withhold a judgment of divorce: at [44] and [45].

6  Once four-year separation was established, the conduct of parties leading to the breakdown of the marriage was irrelevant. The court would not inquire into the motive for the divorce, to avoid making contested divorces more acrimonious. The court should also not be put in the impossible position of having to decide whether a party’s motive for filing for divorce was proper or improper: at [48] and [49].

This summary is provided to assist the public to have a better understanding of the Court’s judgment. It is not intended to be a substitute for the reasons of the Court. All numbers in bold font and square brackets refer to the corresponding paragraph numbers in the Court’s judgment.
Subject Matters: Divorce - facts

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